There are plenty of bubbly, sugar-sweet synth-pop groups out there, and on its 2009 debut, Super Animal Brothers III, Ear Pwr didn’t do much to stand out from the pack. The pair has found a more interesting direction for Ear Pwr, moving from frantic pop fragments into rich, weighty compositions. Sparkling synths are still the name of the game, but there’s depth below the glittering surface, layered into complex melodies, and coupled with chanting harmonies and booming live percussion. From the water vista of the album cover to songs titled “Mountain Home,” “National Parks,” “Lake,” and “Geodes,” much of Ear Pwr offers a majestic portrayal of the outdoors, most grandiosely captured on the soaring, beautiful “North Carolina.” A thundering anthem to the duo’s home state, the song blends electronic shimmer, pounding percussion, and a towering chorus into a mini-epic that could have been commissioned by the state’s tourism department. Other tracks slow things down to eerie effect; those who thought Sarah Reynolds’ girlish vocals were disturbingly cheerful on the bouncy bits of Super Animal Brothers III will find them even more unsettling on the measured, lurking march of “Gypsy Blood.” Given the simple, goofy nature of the debut, Ear Pwr is an impressively ambitious follow-up.
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